Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey was more revealing than many anticipated. Here’s a timeline of what was going on publicly — and what the royal couple shared with Oprah was happening privately at the time.
Within minutes of starting to air, the much-anticipated Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Oprah interview started making waves online. As the promos promised, nothing was off limits, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex delivered. Discussing everything from their secret (!) wedding, to mental health struggles, and what led to their decision to step back from the royal family, we learned a lot during the two-hour special about what’s been going on with Harry and Meghan over the last few years. And if anything became obvious, it’s that not everything is what it seems. Here are the biggest reveals from Meghan and Harry’s Oprah interview, organized in chronological order.
Summer/fall 2016: Meghan Markle meets Queen Elizabeth II
Soon after Meghan and Harry started dating, Meghan met Queen Elizabeth II — and it was a total surprise. The couple were in the car heading to Windsor, where the Queen just so happened to be wrapping up a church service. As Meghan tells it, Harry looked over at her and said, “Okay, well, my grandmother says you are going to meet her.” The duchess was initially excited — she says she loves grandmothers — but then she realized the intensity of the situation when Harry asked: “Do you know how to curtsy?”
Meghan tells Oprah that she was surprised by the question — she thought curtsying was a public formality, but not something the family did in private when it was just them. But, Harry explained, “She’s my grandmother and she’s the Queen.”
“That was really the first moment that the penny dropped that this wasn’t easy for me,” Meghan says, explaining that she hadn’t researched Harry or the royal family at all when they started dating. “I went into it naively. I didn’t grow up knowing much about the royal family,” she admits.
“I didn’t fully understand what the job was,” Meghan adds, explaining she didn’t fully understand the difference between a celebrity and being a royal. “As Americans, what do you know about the royals? It’s what you read in fairy tales. It’s easy to have an image of it that’s so far from reality.”
But Meghan practiced her curtsying — Sarah Ferguson, who Meghan calls “Fergie,” even ran out to help — and the introduction went well. “I apparently did a very deep curtsey, and then we just sat there and chatted,” Meghan recalls. “It was lovely and easy.”
May 2018: Meghan and Harry have a secret royal wedding
We all, of course, remember Meghan and Harry’s beautiful, star-studded royal wedding (Oprah was there!) back in 2018. But, what we didn’t know was that by the time Meghan walked down the aisle at St. George’s Chapel on May 19, the couple had held a secret private ceremony three days earlier. Meghan tells Oprah that it was just her, Harry and the Archbishop of Canterbury in their backyard, where the royal couple exchanged vows without fanfare.
“I’ve thought about [our wedding] a lot because it was like having an out-of-body experience I was very present for,” the duchess went on to say about their publicized ceremony. “That’s the only way I can describe it, because the night before I slept through the night entirely, which in and of itself is a bit of a miracle. And then woke up and started listening to that song, ‘Going to the Chapel.’ And just tried to make it fun and light and remind ourselves that this was our day — but I think we were both really aware, even in advance of that just, this wasn’t our day. This was the day that was planned for the world.”
June 2018: Meghan bonds with the Queen
Although both Meghan and Harry discussed many of their troubling concerns about the royal institution (more on that later), they both had kind words to say about Queen Elizabeth II. “The Queen has always been wonderful to me,” Meghan tells Oprah.
The Duchess of Sussex went on to talk about her first joint engagement with the Queen, during which they spent one night in June 2018 travelling on the royal train together on their way to open a new bridge. “We had breakfast together that morning and she gave me a beautiful gift and I just really loved being in her company,” Meghan recalls, revealing the gift was a pearl necklace and matching earrings. “And she has a blanket that sits across her, her knees, for warmth and it was chilly and she was like, ‘Meghan, come on.’ And put it over my knees as well. And it made me think of my grandmother, where she’s always been warm and inviting and really welcoming.”
October 2018: Meghan and Harry’s royal tour signals a tide change
In late 2018, Meghan and Harry went on their first royal tour as a married couple, visiting Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand. The tour was a public success — everyone seemed to love the charming couple — and it was even when the Sussexes announced they were expecting their first child.
But, according to Harry, this is when things started to go downhill. The royal family was, apparently, very welcoming to Meghan initially, but after the tour, their relationships started to change. “It was the first time the family got to see how incredible she was at the job. And that brought back memories,” Harry tells Oprah, subtly referring to Princess Diana’s own success during her 1983 tour of Australia with Prince Charles.
Oprah, ever the seasoned interviewer, followed up: “Are you saying there were hints of jealousy?”
“I wish we could all learn from the past,” Harry responds, calling Meghan “one of the greatest assets to the Commonwealth that the family could have ever wished for.”
November 2018: False rumours about Meghan and Kate Middleton emerge
Six months after Meghan and Harry’s royal wedding a rumour became widely reported in the U.K. tabloids: Meghan had apparently made Kate Middleton cry over some argument about bridesmaid dresses. We now know that’s not true.
When Oprah asked Meghan about this event, the duchess’s answer was succinct: “The reverse happened.” It turns out there was actually an argument over bridesmaid dresses a few days before the wedding, but according to Meghan, Kate said or did something that “made [her] cry and hurt [her] feelings.”
“I don’t say that to be disparaging to anyone, because it was a really hard week of the wedding, and she was upset about something. But she owned it, and she apologized and she brought me flowers and a note apologizing,” Meghan went on to add. “I don’t think it’s fair to her to get into the details of that because she apologized, and I’ve forgiven her.”
Meghan — who also calls Kate “a good person” — describes this moment as “a turning point” for her as a member of the royal family, and was shocked that the story came out months after the wedding, and that nothing was done to dispel it. “I would have never wanted that to come out about her ever, even though it happened,” Meghan says. “If you love me you, don’t have to hate her. And if you love her, you don’t have to hate me.”
January 2019: Meghan reveals she is experiencing suicidal ideation
Back in January 2019, Meghan and Harry attended a performance at Royal Albert Hall. In all the photos released from the event, the couple look happy. But, as we now know, this was far from true.
Meghan remembers friends sending her photos of the evening, commenting on how beautiful they looked, a moment she says “still haunts” her. “If you zoom in, what I see is how tightly his knuckles are gripped around mine. I see the whites of our knuckles,” she tells Oprah. “Because we are smiling and doing our job. But we’re both just trying to hold on. And every time those lights went down in that royal box, I was just weeping.”
It turns out, earlier that day, Meghan had confessed to Harry how much she’d been struggling, revealing that she had thoughts of self-harm. “I was ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry. But I knew that if I didn’t say it — then I would do it,” she says. “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.” Harry had suggested Meghan stay home that night, but she said, “I don’t think I can be left alone.”
Meghan went on to add: “And that’s so important for people to remember. You have no idea what’s going on for someone behind closed doors. No idea,” she says. “Even the people that smile and shine the brightest lights. You need to have compassion for what is actually potentially going on.”
Meghan and Harry go to the Palace for help — and receive none
Meghan also describes the barrage of hate and scrutiny she was receiving was “almost unsurvivable.” After sharing her struggles with Harry, she says they both tried to get help from “the institution” (a.k.a. the royal family and the people connected to it), and even went to the palace’s version of HR.
“I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. And I said that I’d never felt this way before. I need to go somewhere. And I was told that I couldn’t, because it wouldn’t be good for the institution,” the duchess says.
Instead, she was told: “My heart goes out to you because I see how bad it is. But there’s nothing we can do to protect you because you’re not a paid employee.”
Meghan adds that there were “emails and me begging for help and saying very specifically I’m concerned for my mental welfare.”
May 2019: Baby Archie is denied a royal title
Meghan and Harry’s first son was born in May 2019. When he was born, he didn’t receive an official title or prince designation. It’s always been reported that this was Meghan and Harry’s choice — but Meghan says it wasn’t.
Before baby Archie was even born, Meghan says the royal family didn’t want to give him a title at all. Now, Meghan explains, she doesn’t actually care about the title, but she cares about what comes with it: safety. And because Archie isn’t a prince, the palace wouldn’t provide him with a security detail. “It was important because it affected his safety,” she says.
Meghan even explains that there was a royal convention that automatically would have granted Archie the title — but that protocol was changed before his birth. “When you’re the grandchild of a monarch, when Charles becomes King, automatically Archie and our next child would be prince or princess… it’s not their right to take it away,” she adds, pointing out Archie is not only the first royal grandchild to not receive the title, but also the first biracial grandchild. “While I was pregnant they said they wanted to change the convention for Archie, and I just thought, ‘Why?’”
The royal family has “concerns” about Archie’s skin tone
While discussing how Archie was denied a title and security detail, Meghan also revealed that there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.” When Oprah asked who made those comments, Meghan declined to answer because “it would be very damaging” to that person.
It seems that these were questions that were never posed to Meghan directly, but rather to Harry who relayed them back to his wife. Oprah also asked him about these conversations when he joined the interview, but he also declined to get more specific. “That conversation I’m never going to share,” he says. “It was awkward. I was a bit shocked.”
However, Oprah was on CBS This Morning discussing the interview, and revealed that Harry wanted to make sure she knew that it wasn’t his grandmother or grandfather who were part of those conversations.
January 2020 to present: Harry and Meghan step back as senior members of the royal family
When Harry and Meghan first announced their decision to step back as senior members of the royal family early last year, there were rumours that they had “blindsided” the Queen. The Sussexes say this was not the case. “No, I never blindsided my grandmother,” Harry says. “I have too much respect for her.”
The couple confirms what we always knew: They never wanted to leave in the first place. “I was desperate. I went to all the places, which I thought I should go to for help,” Harry explains. “But we never left.”
Meghan continues: “We never left the family and we only wanted to have the same type of role that exists … there are senior members of the family. We said specifically we’re stepping back from senior roles.
“We weren’t reinventing the wheel here, we were saying, ‘Okay, this isn’t working for everyone. We’re in a lot of pain, they can’t provide us with the help that we need. We can just take a step back,’” Meghan said after explaining that, currently, there are members of the royal family with titles “who earn a living, live on palace grounds and can support the Queen if and when called upon.”
The royal family’s lack of support contributes to Meghan and Harry’s decision to step back
Ultimately, they felt they had no choice but to step back, even if they didn’t want to. According to Harry, it was a “lack of support and lack of understanding” from both the U.K. media and royal family that led to their decision. But instead of being given help, he was just constantly told “This is how it is, we’ve all been through it.”
“This constant barrage, my biggest concern was history repeating itself and I’ve said that before on numerous occasions very publicly,” Harry adds, referencing his mother. “What I was seeing was history repeating itself, but more perhaps or definitely far more dangerous.”
And while Meghan and Harry know a lot of the hate hurled at the Duchess of Sussex is racist, Harry’s family failed “to acknowledge race was an element,” which disappointed him. “There were opportunities for my family to support her, yet no one from my family ever said anything,” he says.
Harry reveals he always felt trapped in the royal family
Prince Harry says he probably never would have stepped back from his senior role in the royal family if it weren’t for Meghan — but he made it clear it wasn’t Meghan’s “fault” or that she was solely responsible for the decision. Before Meghan, Harry simply didn’t see a way out. “I was trapped,” he says.
Oprah, naturally, is skeptical — how could a literal prince, the epitome of privilege, be trapped?
“Trapped within the system,” he explains, adding that the reason he’s able to step back is because he’s lower down the line of succession. “My father and brother, they are trapped. They don’t get to leave,” he says — though he can’t say if they actually feel that way themselves. “And I have huge compassion for that.”
Early 2020: The Sussexes are cut off financially from Harry’s family
Upon stepping back as senior royals, Harry says the royal family “literally cut him off financially,” and their security was also revoked. The royal says the only reason they were able to move to California and afford the necessary security was because of the inheritance left to him by Princess Diana. In fact, Harry adds that he thinks his mom “saw this coming.”
“I think she would feel very angry with how this has panned out and very sad, but ultimately, all she’d ever want is for us to be happy,” Prince Harry explains. “I brought what my mom left me, and without that, we would not have been able to do this.
“I certainly felt her presence throughout this whole process.”
Prince Harry’s relationships with Prince William and Prince Charles are strained
Since leaving the royal family, Harry and Meghan say that their relationship with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip is good — they even Zoom so they can see Archie.
But after they stepped back, Harry revealed there was a time when his father Prince Charles stopped taking his calls. “There’s a lot to work through there,” he says. “I feel really let down, because he’s been through something similar, he knows what pain feels like, and Archie is his grandson. I will always love him, but there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened.”
As for Harry’s relationship with his brother, William? “I love William to bits, he’s my brother, we’ve been through hell together but we’re on different paths,” Harry explains, adding later: “The relationship is space at the moment, and time heals all things.”
Summer 2021: Baby number two is on the way
Meghan revealed that she was pregnant with her second child earlier this year. The couple now tell Oprah that Meghan is due in the summer, and that she’s expecting a girl. The Sussexes also said they won’t have any more children after their daughter is born. “Two is it,” they said.
As for how’s feeling about having a daughter on the way, Prince Harry says: “Grateful, having any child, any one or two would have been amazing, but to have a boy and then a girl . . . now we’ve got our family and we’ve got four of us.”